Santander attractions

Santander attractions

Author Anne Plau

Santander has few historic buildings. In 1941 a major fire destroyed almost the entire old town. 37 streets and more than 1700 houses burned down, two people died, thousands were left homeless. The Gothic cathedral was also destroyed, but was reconstructed in the years that followed.

Santander - Plaza Ayuntamiento


Santander - Plaza Ayuntamiento


Santander - Calle Juan de Herrera


Santander - Calle Juan de Herrera 


The main Santander sights in the city center include the City Hall, the Menéndez Pelayo Library, the historic headquarters of the Banco Santander and the reconstructed Cathedral. Also worth seeing are the central squares of the city, Plaza Porticada and Plaza del Ayuntamiento. The old town district of Puerto Chico in the former fishing port attracts locals and tourists to the tapas bars and fish restaurants, especially in the evenings. There are still a number of old buildings here that were not destroyed in the fire in 1941.

Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral 

The cathedral was built in the Middle Ages. It consists of two height-staggered parts. The lower area, the crypt, dates from the 12th century, the basilica above from the 13th century.

Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral

Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral


A cloister adjoins the basilica. The bones of the city's former patron saints are kept in the basilica, and the literary scholar and writer Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo is buried in the crypt. Pelayo was a member of the Royal Academy of Spain and the most famous resident of Santander. The university was named after him.

The cathedral was largely destroyed during the great fire of 1941. It was the only building that was reconstructed.

Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion - Tower
Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion - Cloister
Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion - Nave
Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción - golden altarpiece

Important museums

Im Archaeological Museum exhibits include prehistoric finds from the Cueva El Castillo and Cueva El Pendo caves.

The Museo de Arte Moderno y Contemporaneo shows contemporary national and international art. A showpiece of the exhibition is a painting by Francisco de Goya.

In the museum Maritimo del Cantrabrico the history of Cantabrian seafaring and its importance for the people of the region is presented. There is also an aquarium and a restaurant overlooking the sea.

Botín Center

The Centro Botín was designed by Renzo Piano and built between 2012 and 2017. It is on the Bay of Santander on the old quays at the Muelle de Albareda. The construction of this attraction looks spectacular.

Botín Center

Botín Center


Two separate parts of the building stand on columns and are connected by a glazed area at the bottom and by open walkways at the top. The facades of the buildings are covered with about 270.000 curved pearlescent ceramic panels that reflect the light.

One part of the building houses the Museum of Modern Art, shops and a restaurant, the other part a cultural center with classrooms and auditorium. There are changing exhibitions and events.

The Fundación Marcelino Botín is the client and responsible for the facility. The Botín family was the founder of Banco Santander. The foundation has existed since 1964 and primarily supports the development of art, culture and creativity in all social classes in Cantabria, Spain and Latin America.

Botín Center


Botín Center


Botín Center


Botín Center 


The busy shore road that separates Santander and the bay was tunnelled in the Centro Botín area. Above were the Pereda Gardens. The direct connection between city and sea through the Centro Botín is intended to underline Santander's tradition as a port city.

Pereda Gardens

The small park was created after tunneling under the shore road. The transition from the sea to the city is well done. The garden is shaded with trees, shrubs and plants provide invigorating greenery. Many paths meander through the garden, there are comfortable benches, a fountain and a pond crossed by a bridge. A playground, a carousel for children and a kiosk were also considered.

Pereda Gardens


Pereda Gardens


Femme debout - Miró sculpture in the Jardines de Pereda


Femme debout - Miró sculpture in the Jardines de Pereda 


Various statues and sculptures commemorate important figures and events in Santander. There is a statue of the writer José Maria Pereda, who gave the garden its name, and a memorial to the great fire of 1941. 

Promenade

The Paseo Marítima or Paseo de Pereda is Santander's seafront promenade and perfect for a stroll by the water. It begins at the Estación Marítima and ends after about a kilometer at the small port of Puerto Chico, today's sports port.

Promenade


Promenade


Leisure port, sports port


Leisure port, sports port 


A number of the sights of Santander immediately catch the eye. First you pass the Jardines de Pereda and the Centro Botín, then a historic freight crane, the former passenger terminal and various sculptures follow. 

Stone Crane 

The historic 30-ton cargo crane was used to load and unload merchant ships in the 20th century. Today it is intended to commemorate Santander's industrial and port tradition.

Palacete del Embarcadero 

The small palace was built in 1932 as a passenger terminal. Today, concerts and other cultural events take place in the beautiful building.

Sculpture Los Raqueros 

The monument consists of four bronze figures. It commemorates the poorest children in town. They dived for coins thrown into the sea by passers-by.

Botín Center
Port crane Grua de Piedra
Palacete del Embarcadero
Figure group Los Raqueros

Dique and Duna de Gamazo 

The Gamazo dock is on the eastern side of the recreational boat harbor. Boats used to be serviced and repaired in the 20th century repair yard. The construction of the dock took more than 20 years and was inaugurated in 1908. The dock was 135 meters long, 14 meters wide and 8 meters deep. It was in operation for 80 years and then lay idle.

On the occasion of the Sailing World Championships in 2014, the area was extensively renovated. The historic dock has been preserved as an industrial monument of Santander's maritime tradition. The Caseta de Bombas, the former pump house, has been converted into a restaurant.

Gamazo Dam


Gamazo Dam


Duna de Gamazo


Duna de Gamazo 


At the bay, the Gamazo Dune was recreated. The rows of seats overlooking the sea invite you to relax or watch a regatta. The view is outstanding.

Magdalena Peninsula and Palacio Real 

In 1908, the city of Santander gave the Spanish royal couple land on the Magdalena peninsula and built the Palacio Real between 1909 and 1911. The so-called Magdalena Palace served as the residence of the royal family until 1932.

Palacio de la Magdalena

Palacio de la Magdalena


Since 1933 it has been the seat of the International University of Menéndez Pelayo. The aim of this summer university is to impart the Spanish language and culture to foreign students.

The Palacio Real is located on the highest point of the peninsula in a well-kept garden. The entire Magdalena Peninsula is a beautiful park area with old trees and various vantage points. Other attractions on the peninsula include the La Cerda Lighthouse and a small marine park with restored historic ships. An electric train runs from the beginning of the peninsula to the palace and back.

On the peninsula of La Magdalena
Magdalena Palace
El Hombre y la Mar Museum
Tren Turistico de la Magdalena

Beautiful beaches 

Santander not only offers sights, but is a popular seaside resort. The wide bay of Santander is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is lined with long sandy beaches.

Playa de los Péligros, Playa de la Magdalena and Playa de los Bikinis are located close to the center between the Museo Marítimo and the Magdalena Peninsula. In the district of El Sardinero are the beaches Primera Playa del Sardinero, Playa del Camello and Segunda Playa. Those who love a quiet beach life can take one of the boats to Playa del Puntal on the opposite side of the bay. Most sports activities are offered in El Sardínero. The water quality is perfect everywhere.

Report about our six-hour stay at: Santander on your own – our shore excursion.

Santander-Puntal Beach

Santander-Puntal Beach


July 2022